Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom

Report
Getting serious…and
realistic…about school
improvement
Dylan Wiliam
GTC(E) Connect National Conference
19 June 2008, London
www.dylanwiliam.net
Overview of presentation
Why investing in teachers is important
Why assessment for learning should be the focus
Why teacher learning communities should be the mechanism
How we can put this into practice
Raising achievement matters…
For individuals
Increased lifetime salary
Improved health
Longer life
For society
Lower criminal justice costs
Lower health-care costs
Increased economic growth
…now more than ever…
$35.00
$30.00
$25.00
Dropout
$20.00
HS Diploma
Some C ollege
BA/BSc
$15.00
Prof Degree
$10.00
$5.00
05
20
03
20
01
20
99
19
97
19
95
19
93
19
91
19
89
19
87
19
85
19
83
19
81
19
79
19
77
19
75
19
19
73
$0.00
Source: Economic Policy Institute
…but quality matters too
Autor, Levy & Murnane, 2003
The search for solutions…
Structure
 Smaller high schools
 Larger high schools
 K-8 schools
Alignment
 Curriculum reform
 Textbook replacement
Governance
 Charter schools
 Vouchers
Technology
 Computers
 Interactive white-boards
…has been focused in the wrong place
Three generations of school effectiveness research
Raw results approaches
Different schools get different results
Conclusion: Schools make a difference
Demographic-based approaches
Demographic factors account for much of the variation
Conclusion: Schools don’t make a difference
Value-added approaches
School-level differences in value-added in most countries are relatively
small
Classroom-level differences in value-added are large
Conclusion: An effective school is a school full of effective classrooms
It’s teacher quality
What causes classroom level differences?
 Weak influences
 class size
 between- and within-class grouping strategy
 Strong influence
 Teacher quality
A labour force issue with 2 (non-exclusive) solutions
 Replace existing teachers with better ones?
 Important, but very slow, and of limited impact
 Improve the effectiveness of existing teachers
 The “love the one you’re with” strategy
 It can be done
 Provided we focus rigorously on the things that matter
 Even when they’re hard to do
The ‘dark matter’ of teacher quality
Teachers make a difference
But what makes the difference in teachers?
Advanced content matter knowledge
Pedagogical content knowledge
Further professional qualifications (MA, NBPTS)
Total “explained” difference
<5%
10-15%
<5%
20-25%
The research evidence for AfL
Several major reviews of the research
Natriello (1987)
Crooks (1988)
Kluger & DeNisi (1996)
Black & Wiliam (1998)
Nyquist (2003)
All find consistent, substantial effects
In real classrooms, over extended periods, using distal measures of
achievement, adoption of AfL practices increases student achievement
by 0.3 standard deviations.
One standard deviation of increased teacher quality is associated with
an increase of 0.2 sd of student achievement
Therefore the range of teacher quality (4 sd) is associated with 0.8 sd of
student achievement.
AfL practices would therefore seem to be equivalent to half of the
“unexplained” difference
The AfL hi-jack continues…
Long-cycle
 Span: across units, terms
 Length: four weeks to one year
 Impact: Student monitoring; curriculum alignment
Medium-cycle
 Span: within and between teaching units
 Length: one to four weeks
 Impact: Improved, student-involved, assessment; teacher cognition about learning
Short-cycle
 Span: within and between lessons
 Length:
 day-by-day: 24 to 48 hours
 minute-by-minute: 5 seconds to 2 hours
 Impact: classroom practice; student engagement
Unpacking assessment for learning
Key processes
Establishing where the learners are in their learning
Establishing where they are going
Working out how to get there
Participants
Teachers
Peers
Learners
Aspects of assessment for learning
Where the learner
is going
Teacher
Peer
Learner
Where the learner is
Engineering effective
Clarify and share discussions, tasks and
activities that elicit
learning intentions
evidence of learning
How to get there
Providing feedback
that moves learners
forward
Understand and
share learning
intentions
Activating students as learning
resources for one another
Understand
learning intentions
Activating students as owners
of their own learning
Five “key strategies”…
Clarifying, understanding, and sharing learning intentions
curriculum philosophy
Engineering effective classroom discussions, tasks and activities that
elicit evidence of learning
classroom discourse, interactive whole-class teaching
Providing feedback that moves learners forward
 feedback
Activating students as learning resources for one another
 collaborative learning, reciprocal teaching, peer-assessment
Activating students as owners of their own learning
metacognition, motivation, interest, attribution, self-assessment
(Wiliam & Thompson, 2007)
…and one big idea
Use evidence about learning to adapt teaching and learning to meet
student needs
Keeping Learning on Track (KLT)
A pilot guides a plane or boat toward its destination by taking constant
readings and making careful adjustments in response to wind, currents,
weather, etc.
A KLT teacher does the same:
Plans a carefully chosen route ahead of time (in essence building the track)
Takes readings along the way
Changes course as conditions dictate
Putting it into practice
Implementing AfL requires changing
teacher habits
Teachers “know” most of this already
So the problem is not a lack of knowledge
It’s a lack of understanding what it means to do AfL
That’s why telling teachers what to do doesn’t work
Experience alone is not enough—if it were, then the most experienced
teachers would be the best teachers—we know that’s not true
(Hanushek, 2005; Day, 2006)
People need to reflect on their experiences in systematic ways that build
their accessible knowledge base, learn from mistakes, etc. (Bransford,
Brown & Cocking, 1999)
Teacher learning takes time
To put new knowledge to work, to make it meaningful and accessible
when you need it, requires practice.
A teacher doesn’t come at this as a blank slate.
Not only do teachers have their current habits and ways of teaching—
they’ve lived inside the old culture of classrooms all their lives: every
teacher started out as a student!
New knowledge doesn’t just have to get learned and practiced, it has to go
up against long-established, familiar, comfortable ways of doing things that
may not be as effective, but fit within everyone’s expectations of how a
classroom should work.
It takes time and practice to undo old habits and become graceful at
new ones. Thus…
 Professional development must be sustained over time
A model for teacher learning
Content, then process
Content (what we want teachers to change)
Evidence
Ideas (strategies and techniques)
Process (how to go about change)
Choice
Flexibility
Small steps
Accountability
Support
Two opposing factors in any school reform
Need for flexibility to adapt to local conditions, resources, etc
 Implies there is appropriate flexibility built into the reform
Need to maintain fidelity to core principles, or theory of action of the
reform, if it is to achieve desired outcomes
 Implies you have a well-thought-out theory of action
“Tight but loose”
Some reforms are too loose (e.g., the ‘Effective schools’ movement)
Others are too tight (e.g., Montessori Schools)
The “tight but loose” formulation
… combines an obsessive adherence to central design principles (the
“tight” part) with accommodations to the needs, resources, constraints, and
particularities that occur in any school or district (the “loose” part), but only
where these do not conflict with the theory of action of the intervention.
Strategies and techniques
Distinction between strategies and techniques
Strategies define the territory of AfL (no brainers)
Teachers are responsible for choice of techniques
Allows for customization/ caters for local context
Creates ownership
Shares responsibility
Key requirements of techniques
embodiment of deep cognitive/affective principles
relevance
feasibility
acceptability
Design and intervention
Our design process
cognitive/affective
insights
synergy/
comprehensiveness
set of
components
Teachers’ implementation process
set of
components
synergy/
comprehensiveness
cognitive/affective
insights
The process model
Teacher learning communities:
contradict teacher isolation
reprofessionalize teaching by valuing teacher expertise
deprivatize teaching so that teachers’ strengths and struggles become
known
offer a steady source of support for struggling teachers
grow expertise by providing a regular space, time, and structure for that
kind of systematic reflecting on practice
facilitate sharing of untapped expertise residing in individual teachers
build the collective knowledge base in a school
Summary
Raising achievement is important
Raising achievement requires improving teacher quality
Improving teacher quality requires teacher professional development
To be effective, teacher professional development must address
What teachers do in the classroom
How teachers change what they do in the classroom
AfL/FA + TLCs
A point of (uniquely?) high leverage
A “Trojan Horse” into wider issues of pedagogy, psychology, and curriculum

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